What is A Smart Light Switch?
After looking into what smart plugs were capable of, the next step up looked like it was an actual smart light switch. Since I rent, probably not something feasible for me at the moment (but still pretty cool).
So, what exactly is a smart light switch?
Smart Light switches are replacements for the traditional on/off light switches. They are hard-wired smart home devices that enable remote access and voice automation through your virtual assistant.
These smart switches are installed using your existing bracket that the old, traditional switch used and control whatever is connected to that switch. It is a cool and sleek way to add smart home capabilities to anything and everything controlled by a light switch.
These switches are enabled with Wi-Fi and can be controlled through an app, voice control and can hook into an existing smart hub. Just make sure it is compatible and works well within your smart home ecosystem.
Do Smart Light Switches Work With Smart Bulbs?
The short answer is yes, smart light switches will work with smart light bulbs. Anything attached to the smart light switch will work. If you have overhead lights working off of your new smart switch, it will turn the light on no matter the bulb.
One issue with this set up is the need for the smart bulb to always be connected to power. If the smart light switch is off, that bulb is essentially rendered “dumb” and you won’t be able to control it anymore. This on/off power situation will also lower the life of both the bulb and switch.
You will also have a few overlapping smart features if you do decide to use both. Both will be controlled through an app or by voice. Both offer remote accessibility. Depending on the brand and model, both have the potential offer the ability to create scenes.
Smart bulbs do offer something smart bulbs do not. You can monitor energy consumption of that bulb, something I have not found with smart light switches (yet).
Smart bulbs are also much easier to install. Like really, really easy.
- Step 1. Unscrew old light bulb
- Step 2. Screw in new smart light bulb
- Step 3. Connect. Boom! Done
Smart light switches do require a bit more work to install, but not so much to scare anyone away. I’ll touch more on that later.
If you’d like to read more in-depth, check out our full post on how smart bulbs work with regular switches.
So Which is Best?
So, although you can run a smart light bulb from a smart light switch, It’s hard to validate both. Depending on your situation, either one would work just fine. Running them both simultaneously seems counterintuitive and kind of a waste.
If you need help deciding, find our most recommended smart switches on the market today.
Everyone will have a different situation, where one option may make more sense than the other. Take a step back and figure out what is gonna make your life easiest.
If I owned a home now, I would most definitely spring for the smart light switches. If my home needed to be rewired, I would probably still seriously consider it.
But for me, being as I rent, it is going to be smart light bulbs for now.
If you own a home, smart light switches might work out best for you. Or a combination of the two.
There really are no wrong answers here, but it is probably best to run one or the other.
Smart Light Switches With Dimmers
Dimmers give you a little more control over your smart light switch, where you can control how much light you want or how fast you want that ceiling fan to go.
The dimmer function does require a bulb that is capable of dimming but you will find most modern bulbs come ready to dim. Make sure to check to make sure and if they aren’t capable, it was time to upgrade anyways.
You can set a schedule to turn your lights on slowly in the morning, or when you enter a room.
Or, you can just dim the lights from your phone when your ready to relax. Both very cool features that I think everyone should have in a smart home.
When you throw in IFTT (if this then that) and voice control, dimmers really start to show off. There are so many different scenarios that work well with dimmers from triggers for “bedtime” to “movie night”. Whatever you can dream up really.
Are These Hard to Install?
Smart light switches do require a bit more leg work on your part. It is really not to difficult at all though, don’t worry.
If you are not comfortable changing these out yourself, it is always ok to call an electrician to help you out!
You will need to ensure your existing switches come with a neutral wire. The majority of smart switches do require this neutral wire, but not all of them.
If your house is newer, you shouldn’t have any issue here. If your house is older (built prior to 1980ish) and lacking the neutral wire, there are still a few switches that will work for you. Just not as many.
I’m no electrician, but here is a boiled down guide on installing that smart light switch.
- Choose a switch you want to upgrade, decide whether you need a single, two or three gang switch (number of switches).
- Choose a smart light switch you would like to install and that fits your situation.
- Turn off power to the circuit breaker and remove the old switch while disconnecting the wires.
- Connect the smart switch making sure the wires are going where they need to. Turn the power back on to test the new connections.
- Put the wires neatly back into the box and screw in the new smart light switch.
- Lastly, connect the switch to the Wi-Fi and app
There are so many great resources out there on installing smart light switches but you should always start with the manual it comes with. Wiring in houses varies so always consult with a professional if needed.
Voice Control Options
Like any smart tech you decide to integrate into your home, most will come with the voice control functionality through your favorite voice assistant.
Be sure to check to make sure the switch is compatible with whatever voice assistant you use in your home. Not all smart tech works well with each other so make sure you do your due diligence.
Alexa, Google, whatever else you might use, there are options that work and work well with your smart home ecosystem.
These will be a little more spendy depending on the brand that you get. Dimming functionality will bring that price up a bit slightly.
I have found good branded models in the $25-$40 range all the way up to the $100s. It really depends on how much you want to spend.
I will say it is always best to go with the more well known brands. These tend to be more reliable with better warranties and customer service. When it comes to anything electrical, I feel it is always better to pay a little more for that peace of mind.
Should I Outfit Every Light Switch in My House?
If I could upgrade each light switch in my apartment, I wouldn’t hesitate. Is it a necessity? Probably not, but having all that control would be great.
This would also get to be pretty expensive, but if you have the means to get it done, go for it!
Bathroom, kitchen, ceiling lights, ceiling fans, fireplaces. Control them all from an app or using your voice.
Other People Asked
What If My Home Does Not Have a Neutral Wire?
You have a few options here, some more expensive then others. There are a few smart light switches that can run without the neutral wire. But lets say none of those fit your needs.
Option 1: The cheaper and easiest around this would be to just use a smart light bulb instead. Same functionality without the switch. There are even smart covers you could put over the existing switch too. Problem solved and you didn’t have to break the bank.
Option 2: Upgrade the wiring in your house. This will require an electrician and can cost over $8,000. Whether that’s worth it or not is completely up to you.
Option 3: Sell you house and move. Drastic, I know, but an option nonetheless.
Do I Need an Electrician to Install Smart Light Switches?
Hiring an electrician is never a bad idea but installing a smart light switch can be done without one. Your smart light switch should come with instructions and there are many blog posts and videos out there to help walk you through the process.
If you are still concerned about installing one of these switches, reach out to a professional. That is what they are there for, right?